Moorehouse aiming to make her Olympic dream become a reality

European Games in Poland next week present an opportunity for Ireland’s six-strong team, including the best boxer at this year’s Irish championships, to book their place in Paris

The last few months have been a blast. Germany, Czech Republic, Italy, Bray, Dublin and finally Poland next week for the European Games. Looking in from the outside, Daina Moorehouse’s life seems impossibly glamorous.

With the success of Irish women’s boxing at Olympic Games and world championship level nudging the men into the background, Moorehouse is part of the incredible growth of the sport that allows Ireland to send a team to Krakow laced with champions, their priority places at the Paris Olympics next year.

Although it will be the first major senior championship of her career, the Bray athlete who boxes out of Enniskerry BC, has never been far removed from sports favourite word, ‘prospect’.

At 21-years-old, the Moorhouse name has seemingly been around forever with a win in this year’s Irish championships a timely step closer to making the Olympics a real possibility.


To make it work has required a lifestyle that she has had to agree with herself.

“Yeah, you really need to adapt to it,” says Moorehouse. “The worst thing is being away from home. But this year is big. It’s every boxer’s dream to even come close to the Olympics.

“It’s kinda mad you have that chance and it’s getting so close. In two weeks’ time I could be an Olympian. It’s crazy when I think about it. It has always been Olympics 100 per cent, always. When I was younger and first started, I was kinda clueless about what the Olympics actually were.

“Then I got more serious about it and obviously when I saw Katie win the Olympics . . . I didn’t even box then. I was sitting in Portugal in a bar with my family and we were watching it on the table. I remember saying ‘oh my god’ imagine that. When I learned more, I knew the Olympics was the best of the best. I was right okay, 100 per cent Olympics that’s what I want to do.”

Not everybody picks to go to the Olympics. Only four Irish female boxers have ever been, Katie Taylor in 2012 and 2016 and Kellie Harrington, Michaela Walsh and Aoife O’Rourke in Tokyo 2020.

A team of six is travelling to Poland next week and it is a team with high expectations. Harrington, an Olympic champion, Broadhurst a world champion and O’Rourke, a European champion illustrating how star-studded the team has become.

Moorehouse, while a relative novice, is far from out of her depth and travels as the best boxer from this year’s Irish championships, where both Harrington and Broadhurst competed. At 50kg, hers is a highly competitive weight for women, 10kg lighter than Harrington’s lightweight division.

“I started boxing at 11. I can’t remember exactly but it probably was around that time of the holiday in Portugal [2012],” she says. “It probably was because my brother Michael was a boxer. That’s why my mam said look go up to the boxing club try it out. It wasn’t really suggested, it was more like you are going up and that’s it. I don’t know why she thought boxing. She just said look Michael boxes . . . maybe it was just easier bringing us both training.

“At the start I don’t think I liked it because I remember sparring the first time and I got winded and started crying. But I got used to it. When you take a certain amount of punches you get used to it.”

Moorehouse also comes into the Irish team with Traveller heritage. Past Olympians such as Andy Lee, John Joe Nevin and Joe Ward have represented their community with distinction at all levels, Nevin an Olympic finalist, Ward a world finalist and Lee a professional middleweight world champion. Moorehouse’s connection comes from her father John’s side of the family, an association of which she is proud.

In the Travelling community, young girls and women rarely emerge as international athletes and none have come through so far in boxing despite the success of their male counterparts.

Her hope is that her success as an underage European champion and possible Olympian can become a pointer for Traveller girls that sporting success can be achieved with guidance and support.

“It definitely is important to me. It comes from my da’s side. I think being a Traveller in boxing is a good thing,” she says.

“You have a lot of girls who box when they are younger and then obviously in the Travelling traditions, maybe marriage or whatever it is would stop them from boxing. I don’t live my life like that. My family are very supportive and they love the boxing and would be lost without it as much as I would. I couldn’t really imagine my life without boxing.

“My da boxed and all my uncles boxed. My brother boxed. They all boxed. My grandmother’s father was also a professional boxer in Bray so boxing runs through the family. His name was Johnny Maloney. It does go back a good way but I’m the only woman that came out of the family boxing. They’re all just men.”

A quick southpaw, Moorehouse needs to get to the semi-final in Poland to open up the pathway to Paris next summer. There are four qualification places available in her weight division. Her current mindset is positive with a recent competition in the Czech Republic giving her cause to feel it is not beyond her reach.

Having been sick in Germany prior to the Usti and Labem Grand Prix event in the Czech Republic, she made it to the final, falling in the end by split decision to the European champion, Ukraine’s Tatiana Kob. Kob will be in Krakow too looking for one of the places on offer.

“It definitely gave me confidence. It was my first elite international competition,” she says. “I was nervous about it. We were out in Germany for two weeks and I ended up getting sick and I was out for a while with injuries and to get to the final, I even shocked myself.

“Then to lose on a split decision against the European champion, it really gave me a confidence boost for the Europeans. It said I could compete at this level with these boxers. She will be here again. One hundred per cent she will. This time I’ve been sparing nonstop, training nonstop. It will be a different game to the Czech Republic.”

For the athletes it is a return to high-profile competition after this year’s boycott of the World Championships by Ireland after the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) voted not to send fighters to either the men’s or women’s tournaments. The move was made in protest over the way the Russian-led sport is governed by the International Boxing Association (IBA).

That decision ensured current world champions Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke were not able to defend their titles in India and Olympic champion Kellie Harrington, who missed last year’s championships because of injury, did not get a chance to win a second world gold.

This month the International Olympic Committee executive board also asked its membership to withdraw recognition of the IBA when it holds a special meeting this month. That will further close the door on boxing’s inclusion in the 2028 LA Olympics.

What that means for Moorehouse and the Irish boxers is this first opportunity for Paris may be one of the last for the Olympic Games.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times